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Battles optimistic for return to field

By Michael Butler

Tallassee High School head football coach and athletic director Mike Battles is a little "stir crazy" like a lot of others, but he is looking forward to kicking off the football season as scheduled come August.

"We're in unprecedented times. I try to keep positive. If there is a way to play football, I think it'll be done," Battles said. "We need something exciting to see and go do."

Battles was in preparation for spring football when the school year was canceled. He is sympathetic to the spring athletes whose seasons ended prematurely.

"At first it doesn't settle in. You think it's going to be okay. To have the reality set in that we're not going to get to finish, then it starts going through your mind of all the people that matter to you and how it's affected them. My son will be a senior next year. Think about our softball team, the season they were having."

The THS softball team was ranked No. 1 in the Class 5A ASWA poll when the season came to a halt.

"That is a shame because of how hard those girls had worked. It is a unique time. I remember my first year at Oak Grove. We had just finished spring practice in '98. That's when that F5 tornado hit. We didn't finish the school year. That's the only other time I can ever remember not finishing a school year, but that was just one school. I hope and pray we get back sooner than later and get back some normalcy."

During the downtime, Battles has taken a different approach to connecting with his players.

"I have become computer savvy. We're actually starting virtual coaches meetings. I'm going to start Zoom meetings with the different classes," he said. "I've stayed in touch with the kids. We're still preparing. We're not going to fall asleep. We're still going to work and get ready for the 2020 season.

"We might get back in June. We may be able to do some things in small groups. I think the thing that is most detrimental is just not being together and having that comradery. Teams are made when everybody pays the price together."

If there is a season, will it be altered? Could there be a scenario without fans?

"I try to keep positive. There could be some adjustments. For our kids to play a game and not have fans there, that would be like us driving to somebody's place and scrimmaging them. The gates are important to most high schools around the state. What kind of game would it be if we didn't have our band there, the cheerleaders, the fans? That's what gets the kids and me as a coach excited."

If the season kicks off on Aug. 20 vs. Reeltown as planned at J. E. "Hot" O'Brien Stadium, Battles hopes the stadium is packed but doesn't know what to expect.

"The perfect plan, the perfect game... just the wrong year. Of all the years and then to have this happen. I know there are going to be people skeptical. I would be skeptical. Even when we start getting back to normal, I think it's going to hurt attendance in a lot of places. I also think when we get back to sports, it's going to give the community some needed happiness."